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First growths wary of new Bordeaux film

Warwick Ross, producer of new wine documentary Red Obsession, has revealed how reluctant many of the Bordeaux first growths were to be interviewed for the project.

Filmed over a 14 month period spanning the release of Bordeaux’s 2009 to 2011 vintages, Red Obsession tracks China’s recent fast moving but precarious relationship with this wine region.

Narrated by Hollywood star Russell Crowe, the film features interviews with principals of several first growths and their new billionaire breed of Chinese customer, as well as a number of critics and consultants – not to mention a fleeting cameo for the drinks business.

Despite the doors opened by associate producer Andrew Caillard MW, Ross revealed: “Latour was very difficult,” adding: “Others tended to be very glossy, very professional and very dull for the first meeting. It was only after we’d interviewed them two or three times that they relaxed enough to tell us what they did.”

In particular he blamed this reticence on Bordeaux’s depiction in an earlier documentary Mondovino. “Most of the people in Bordeaux were terrified that this was Mondovino part two,” he remarked.

The inspiration for the film, which features figures including Paul Pontallier of Château Margaux, Christian Moueix of Château Petrus and a Chinese sex toy billionaire-turned-wine collector, came from a chance conversation between Ross and Caillard when they sat next to each other on a long haul flight two and a half years ago.

Since Ross is also a winemaker and owner of Portsea Estate Wines in Mornington Peninsula, the duo’s conversation soon turned to wine and particularly the developing situation in Bordeaux. Recalling the incident, Ross told the audience at a private London screening hosted by Berry Bros & Rudd how “this intriguing story unfolded.”

Simon Staples, Asian sales director for BBR, who also appears in the film, emphasised the accuracy with which it depicted the atmosphere surrounding Bordeaux wines in China. In particular, he echoed concerns about the risk involved of courting such a capricious, fast-learning consumer base.

“China is such a fickle market,” Staples remarked. “It literally does change with the wind and what you’ve portrayed is what will happen.”

Indeed, he pointed to signs already emerging of a diminishing Chinese enthusiasm for Bordeaux, saying: “the first eight months of this year in Hong Kong has been totally Burgundy. Bordeaux has completely fallen by the wayside.”

Red Obsession is currently on limited release in Australia and the US. As for its appearance in the UK, Ross remarked: “I’m not quite sure yet but we’re working on it right now.”

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